Fascinating Fasciation

Just before we went on holiday, I spotted that one of my Digitalis purpurea (foxglove) was in flower again. It flowered in June just like it's supposed to, but I was rather surprised not only to see a second flush had started at the top of the plant, but also that it's flowering at this time of the year at all.

Closer inspection revealed that things are even stranger than I first thought as it's an example of fasciation, a disorder where the plant shows distorted stems and flowers, usually at it's head or other strongly growing tip. Here you can see that the stem resembles a cheesestring rather than its usual smoothness and there's some distortion to the flowers too. Mind you, it didn't seem to put the bees off their stride, they were busy shoving themselves up the flowers as usual :)

Fasciation's not a common disorder, but Digitalis is one of the species it more commonly appears on. It can occur due to a number of reasons: genetic; bacterial, viral or insect/animal attack; frost damage or disturbance. As the plant flowered normally earlier in the year, I'm favouring a response to an insect attack such as aphids. Or perhaps it's a response to the drought we had earlier in the year? This could be due to the drought itself (which may have stressed the plant, interrupted the flowering and now we've had more rain the plant's growth and flowering has recommenced in a distorted fashion?) or perhaps the stress of the drought made the plant vulnerable to a bacterium or virus.

It can't be due to disturbance as I've left that area of the garden well alone this year. I'm also discounting frost or genetic damage as I would have thought I'd have seen the same thing during the June flowering. However, I'm going to collect the seeds from the fasciated and non-fasciated parts of the plant to see if any their offspring flower in the same way.

As Mr Spock would say: Fascinating.


  1. thanks for the cheesestrings link. I hope you haven't wasted too many hours on that game!
    BTW did you get my message about the worcester pearmains?

  2. I'd have composed a wise comment, but got distracted by your cheesestring link. It took me ages to decide what vehicle to build and I had to give up, eventually. I'll be back there, though! Thanks, VP for jeopardising my productivity and making me fidgety and distracted.

    And believe it or not, the word verificaton is 'antsy' Ha ha!

  3. I remember seeing colourful but oddly shaped flowers growing in someone's yard in Greece. Took ages to discover it was Celosia argentea var. cristata which apparently proves equally fascinating from seed.

  4. Lu - yes I did thanks and I've replied too...

    Nigel - cheesestrings are one of niece's favourite foods, so I couldn't help it sir ;)

    EG - apparently some species/cultivars are grown for their tendency to fasciate. I wonder if this is one of them?


Your essential reads

Wildflower Wednesday: Alpengarten

Salad Days: Mastering Lettuce

Jack Go To Bed At Noon

Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day: 'Just Add Cream'

Garden Bloggers' Muse Day: The Best of Summer

From The Editor's Post Bag...

Just Chilling

June Drop

Dessert Apple Jelly: Seasonal Recipe

Weekend Wandering: To the Sunflowers!